Some techniques of composition

of Mr. Ben.

I'll try in this part to make you discover some techniques of compositionof Ben, to give you some elements of his style. This informations come from the book of Sebastien Lucaire published by Editions La Mascara.

"I hear the songs in my head. I remember it and I hum it in a dictaphone".

[credit:Ryan Miner]

In reference to the famous expression , "we have to suffer for his art", Ben Harper doesnt' seem to escape to the law. But for him, more than the professional ethics, this conviction takes a philosophical dimension , indeed quasi- metaphysical. In 97, he said to the magazin Les Inrockuptibles : "each form of land existence must be accompagnied by a little of suffering. We suffer to be the first, the strongest, the cultivatest, it's normal. This suffering is present since my starts, but, in the same time, only the music can cure it. It's this paradox which allows to advance, never to give up. I suffer when I compose, but the result helps me to live and so wanders from the suffering. To do music gives me a kind of equilibrium without I would be someone of reasonably well out of one's depth. As I compose since my adolescence, I could protect me from the worth sufferings, those know by people to who we don't manage to transmit the desire to realise something on the Earth."

This desire can be showed easily in his texts, and the public don't miss to notice and to do notice to the artist that the lyrics touchs him as much as the music. Ben Harper explains himself on this aspect of his compositions in the magazin Guitare et Claviers : "For me, words are music. Such or such sentence can be deeply musical. The fusion lyrics/music, it's the permanent collection. I don't want that my music is insulted by my lyrics and vice-versa. If iI find a melody that I estim good, and if it goes to my mind without lyrics, I'll do nothing to change that. And if she had to stay without lyrics, she'll stay. I'm a compositor, not a poetry, not a musician, but a simple song-writer."


The "song-writer" Ben Harper is known to play the guitar put on his knees. A surprising and touching position of the instrument, of which he explains so :" I've always tried, and I try again, to reperform the blues. The way whose the instrument was used for this kind of music didn't suit me. By putting my guitar on my knees, I immediatly feel at ease. It' s only since the event that I could really write. More exactly seriously. Some new doors open up then." And about the difficulty to sing and to play both with the instrument put on his knees :" it asked me a lot of work and training to be at ease by singing sitting, but now it seems me natural. I believe well that it 'll be the case bis the old people's home, I'm too old to change now! I've tried during a moment to play like everybody but I felt left and clumsy and I renounced quickly..."

In the first allbim of Ben, the presence of the rythmic section is imposing. But already , he's aware of the limits that can set him his love for the percussions :"You have to take care never to let an instrument encroach on the territory of an othe. It 's a clever, dainty cooking and I'm just a novice. In some songs, as Like A King, drums and congas are the first matter, the base food, the guitars are just condiments." He adds, announcing with lucidity the following of his musical evolution : " From now on I'd like to head for a writing more concentrated on the acoustic guitar.It won't be easy, because drums is the most playful instrument. If I hear to myself, I'd record full discs of rythmics, of percussions. Certainly my tribal aspect ! [laughs] " This love for the rythmics doesn't come from the blues : "the rythmic part of my music comes from my passion for the hip-hop, a way where this part is equivalent to an heart beat . And it's natural that I integrated this element to something more acoustic. I prefer thousand times a good DJ to any bugger of neck surestimated !"